Networking is an important skill in a tight job market. Many people who take a new position did not respond to an opening posted on the Internet and much of all hiring occurs through the hidden job market. The hidden job market includes all the jobs that are filled before they are posted anywhere. Networking helps you find those hidden jobs.

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Step One:
Identify Your Networks

  • Family - move beyond parents and siblings - think of your uncle in Texas and your mom's cousin in North Platte.
  • Friends - a high school friend, your first college roommate, that person from your study group.
  • Academic connections - consult with your faculty and advisers, they have experience with others in your academic area.
  • Virtual friends - tell your contacts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn about your career search. Consult  LinkedIn tutorials to make the most of your account. Join The Official University of Nebraska-Lincoln Alumni Association group.
  • Organizations - keep in mind professional groups like American Society of Civil Engineers or Phi Beta Lambda, non-career related groups like intramurals as well as fraternities/sororities/residence hall associations and local professional organizations like the Lincoln Young Professionals Group. Many have alumni that have volunteered to help others with their job search.
  • Work - remember student jobs or volunteer experiences.

If you don't have many networks, then you need to get more involved. Volunteer in the community, join a civic organization and/or a professional association.

Step Two:
Make Contact

  • Use your network to generate referrals or identify people knowledgeable about your field. Ask your network, “Do you know someone who would know anything about__________?”
  • Develop a short, specific phrase that describes your career interests. Contact the people suggested with a polite request, using your short phrase. Example: “I’m a college senior majoring in political science. I’m interested in community planning, primarily focused on environmental issues. My aunt, Carol Smith, thought you may be able to help me learn more about the planning area. Do you have some time to talk by phone, or could I ask you some questions by email?”
  • Contact people via email or phone. Using the phone can personalize the effort, but email can work as well.
  • Ask for advice, ideas and leads or referrals. Try to leave every networking encounter with a concrete next step.
  • Have a resume prepared, but only provide it if asked to do so. Networking is not about distributing your resume. However, if they do ask for your resume, you may want to take the opportunity to ask them for feedback on your document.

Step Three:
Follow Up

  • Send a thank you to your contacts after visiting with them. This is not only a courtesy, it strengthens your relationship with that person.
  • Keep a record of your contacts and referrals. You may need to reference these notes in the future.
  • Follow through on all leads and always deliver what you promised. Your actions not only reflect on you, but the person who referred you as well.
  • Let your contacts know when you have found something and thank them again for their assistance.
  • Be prepared to reciprocate. You may be in a position to help other people get their start!
  • Stay in touch. Find opportunities to continue fostering the relationships you have established. Request LinkedIn contact, send holiday cards, etc.